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SOCIAL AND POLITICAL LIFE 179
their "fire" a little, or that they might unknowingly kill or maim a man who belonged to that higher officiaFs household. Then they would crys "I ought to die! I ought to die!" and actually they might be handed over to the higher official for whatever punishment that official deemed fit, including flogging and imprisonment, law or no law.
Privilege of this sort was always inspiring and fascinating, and it is no wonder that modern officials, deprived of such outward glory, are unwilling to give it up. No one enjoying a privilege is not flattered by it or highly pleased with it What a democratic come-down to call these modern officials "public servants!" They may use the phrase themselves in circular telegrams, but in their hearts they hate it. In 1934 there still occurred a case in which the chauffeur of a high government official disobeyed the traffic signal, crossed the road at a busy corner, and pulling out a revolver, shot off the thumb of the policeman who tried to stop Mm. Such was the glowing flame of his official fire. Yes, privilege was a good thing, and it is still glowing to-day.
Privilege is therefore the antithesis of equality and the officials are the natural enemies of democracy. Whenever the officials are willing to curtail their class privilege, enjoy less freedom of action and answer an impeachment by appearing at a law court, China can be transformed overnight into a true democracy. But not until then. For if the people are free, where will be the freedom of the officials and militarists? If the people have the inviolability of person, where will be the freedom of the militarists to arrest editors, close down the press and chop off men's heads to cure their headache?1 Whenever the people are disrespectful to their officials or the young speak against their parents, we exclaim "Fan liaol Fan liao!" meaning that heaven and earth are overturned and the world has come to an end.
The notion is very deep-rooted in the Chinese mind, and the evil is not confined to the officials, but spreads like the roots of a banyan tree miles off. Like the banyan tree, too, it spreads its cool shade over all who come under it. We Chinese
1 As did General Chang Yi in my native town, Changchow, Fukien. I can give his name because he is dead.